Blood and Sand: Review

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I am always ready to read a good historical fiction and when I heard that Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk is a genderbent retelling of Spartacus- consider me sold! Now, I've always been intrigued by gladiatorial Rome even though I'm a huge chicken and can't sit through any of the movies. A YA retelling was perfect for me and Blood and Sand truly did not disappoint.

Goodreads Summary

The action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic―and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus...
For teens who love strong female protagonists in their fantasy and historical fiction, Blood and Sand is a stirring, yet poignant tale of two slaves who dared take on an empire by talented debut author C. V. Wyk.
Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.
Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.
Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end―and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus...

My Review

Blood and Sand is such an interesting take on the legend of Spartacus as it focuses on a fiercely strong warrior named Attia, trained from birth to be a swordmaiden and queen. It alternates between her point of view and Xanthus', the undefeated gladiator to whom Attia is gifted. Hah, "gifted." Like our warrior princess would allow herself to be commodified in such a way! This is the beginning of a tenuous relationship between our two heroes but don't be mistake- this is not an insta-love! It was a slow burn with trust and passion and loyalty. The development of this relationship was key to the pacing of the book and its overall success.

I truly didn't expect to love Blood and Sand so much. On the surface, it seems to be straightforward enough. It's filled with plenty of action and fight scenes, one of my favorites being the moment where the name "Spartacus" is finally used and we get to see Attia unleash her full fury. The story is written exceptionally well and I felt immersed in ancient Rome. The tension throughout the book, coupled with the vulnerability of our fighters outside of the ring, is what kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. 

Wyk is able to explore some poignant themes as well through the lens of the gladiators. Each fighter has a different definition of freedom and perception of what it means to truly be enslaved. Attia and Xanthus are the perfect foils of each other as Wyk explores the different sides of freedom and slavery, life and death. There is a thread of hope that weaves its way throughout Blood and Sand that speaks to the fighter in all of us, I think. 

Oh, and that ending! THAT ENDING! My heart nearly burst. I need the second book now. 

I rate Blood and Sand 5/5 stars!

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